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Fahrenheit 451 is a 1966 film directed by François Truffaut, in his first colour film and first and only English-language film. It is based on the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury.

The film starred Oskar Werner as Montag and Julie Christie who was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role award for the dual roles of Linda (Mildred) Montag and Clarisse.


Truffaut kept a detailed diary during the production, and this was later published in both French and English (in Cahiers du Cinema in English). In this diary, he called Fahrenheit 451 his "saddest and most difficult" filmmaking experience, mainly because of intense conflicts between Truffaut and Werner.

The film was Universal Pictures' first European production. Julie Christie was originally just cast as Linda Montag, not both Linda and Clarisse. The part of Clarisse was offered to both Jean Seberg and Jane Fonda. It's been rumoured that when the two actresses found out that they were offered the same role, they refused the part. After much thought, Truffaut decided that the characters should not have a villain/hero relationship, but rather be two sides of the same coin, and cast Christie in both roles, although the idea came from the producer, Lewis M. Allen.

In an interview from 1998, Charles Aznavour said he was Truffaut's first choice to play the role eventually given to Werner; Aznavour said Jean-Paul Belmondo was the director's second choice, but the film's producers refused on the grounds that both of them were not familiar enough for the English speaking audience. Paul Newman, Peter O'Toole and Montgomery Clift were also considered for the role of Montag; Terence Stamp was cast, but dropped out when he feared being overshadowed by Christie's dual roles in the film.

Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave and Sterling Hayden were considered for the role of the captain before Cyril Cusack was cast.

The film was shot at Pinewood Studiosmarker in Englandmarker, with the monorail exterior scene taken at the French SAFEGE test track, in Châteneuf-sur-Loire near Orléansmarker, Francemarker (since dismantled). The film featured the Alton housing estate in Roehamptonmarker, South London and also Edgcumbe Parkmarker in Crowthornemarker, Berkshire. The final scene of the Book People was filmed in a rare and unexpected snowstorm that occurred on Julie Christie's birthday.

The production work was done in French, as Truffaut spoke virtually no English, but co-wrote the screenplay with Jean-Louis Ricard. Truffaut expressed disappointment with the often stilted and unnatural English-language dialogue. He was much happier with the version that was dubbed into French.

The movie's opening credits are spoken rather than displayed in type, which might be the director's hint of what life would be like in an illiterate culture.

Tony Walton did costumes and production design, while Syd Cain did art direction.


Time magazine called the film a "weirdly gay little picture that assails with both horror and humor all forms of tyranny over the mind of man"; it "strongly supports the widely held suspicion that [Christie] cannot actually act. Though she plays two women of diametrically divergent dispositions, they seem in her portrayal to differ only in their hairdos." They also noted that the film's "somewhat remote theme challenged [Truffaut's] technical competence more than his heart; the finished film displays the artisan more than the artist."

Bosley Crowther called the film a "pretentious and pedantic production" based on "an idea that called for slashing satire of a sort beyond [Truffaut's] grasp, and with language he couldn't fashion into lively and witty dialogue. The consequence is a dull picture—dully fashioned and dully played—which is rendered all the more sullen by the dazzling color in which it is photographed."

The film was nominated for a 1967 Hugo Award in the "Best Dramatic Presentation" category, along with Fantastic Voyage and 3 episodes of Star Trek. It lost out to the Star Trek episode "The Menagerie".

Martin Scorsese has called the film an "underrated picture" which had influenced his own films.

Leslie Halliwell described it as "1984 stuff, a little lacking on plot and rather tentatively directed, but with charming moments".

The film scores 86% on the Rotten Tomatoes tomato-meter.

List of works and authors mentioned

According to the book Bradbury: An Illustrated Life, neither Bradbury nor Truffaut chose the books that appear in the movie. However, the DVD commentary suggests that many or all of the books used came from Truffaut's personal library. One of the books, though barely visible, is Fahrenheit 451 itself.


DVD cover
According to an introduction by Ray Bradbury to a CD of a rerecording of the film score by William Stromberg conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra Bradbury had suggested Bernard Herrmann to Truffaut. Bradbury had visited the set of Torn Curtain meeting both Alfred Hitchcock and Herrmann before Herrmann left the film. When Truffaut contacted Bradbury for a conference about his book, Bradbury recommended Herrmann as Bradbury knew Truffaut had written a detailed book about Hitchcock.

When Herrmann asked Truffaut why he was chosen over "modern" composers such as the director's friends Pierre Boulez or Karlheinz Stockhausen, the director replied that "They'll give me music of the twentieth century, but you'll give me music of the twenty first!"

Herrmann used a score of only string instruments, harp, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, and glockenspiel. As with Torn Curtain, Herrmann refused the studio's request to do a title song.

For the track listing of the complete score, see here.

Deviations from the novel

The movie differed somewhat from the novel.

  • Clarisse is shown as 20 years old and a Elementary School teacher instead of a 15 year old student.
  • Clarisse survives to the end of the film by escaping a raid on her home and is reunited with Montag when he flees the city. Bradbury was pleased with Truffaut's decision.
  • Montag's wife is named Linda in the film, but her name is Mildred in the book. She also has a much more likable personality in the movie, and one more similar to Clarisse.
  • The role played by Faber is reduced significantly, appearing only briefly in one scene as an old man who is searched for books in a park as the cinematography surrounds him with black borders.
  • The book Montag secretly takes home is changed from the Bible in the novel to a book on Kaspar Hauser in the film.
  • The obsession with fast and often fatal driving that permeates the novel is nowhere in the film. Only three automobiles are seen in the film; a Jaguar S-Type, a Commer Imp van, and art director Syd Cain's red Excalibur roadster.
  • Once Montag begins reading, the machines of his society (represented by the Mechanical Hound in the book) turn against him. In the film this is represented by his being unable to go up the fireman's pole and the door of his home no longer opening automatically.
  • The nuclear war in the book is absent, though one of Linda's friends talks about her husband being called up by the military.
  • The film adds a pursuit of Montag with jet packs and an attack from a machine gun firing helicopter that is televised.
  • There is only one parlor wall-screen in the movie, whereas the book had three (in Linda and Montag's house).

Bradbury has said that Truffaut "captured the soul and essence of the book," although he disliked the double omission of Faber and the Mechanical Hound. According to Bradbury, the novel is not about censorship but about how television destroys interest in reading literature.


  1. Insdorf, Annette. Francois Truffaut, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  2. de Baecque, Antoine and Serge Toubiana. Truffaut: A Biography, University of California Press, 2000.
  3. Bonus material, DVD release
  4. Christie, Julie DVD comments Fahrenheit 451
  5. Bradbury, Ray Bernard Herrmann and Fahrenheit 451 liner notes for CD 5 June 2007
  6. Gunther Kogehehn, "Fahrenheit 451" liner notes Tribute CD.
  7. Bradbury, Ray Introduction to 2003 edition of Fahrenheit 451 2004 Voyager Harper Collins
  9. Boyle Johnston, Amy E. "Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted", LA Weekly, May 30, 2007.

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